284 The Company
When the caravan left, Roland let out a long sigh of relief.
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Finally… the treasury was full once again.
He delivered a total of eight steam engines to the three chambers of commerce. Three of them had been produced by the Crescent-Moon-Bay Chamber of Commerce in Factory No. 2—Roland had to acknowledge that when it came to talent or learning potential, the smiths from the Fjords were far better than the miners and the blacksmiths from the town. Once they understood how to operate the machines, the standard of the products just kept rising. Perhaps after two more months, the production capacity of Factory No. 2 would catch up with that of Factory No. 1. Fortunately, according to the signed contract, any income from the sale of those machines belonged to Roland.
Furthermore, he also received a new purchasing order for a new hydrogen balloon from the Crescent-Moon-Bay Caravan. Marleen was extremely interested in an item like this that could greatly increase the vision range. Apart from a single person detection balloon, he specifically ordered also a huge three to four people balloon which he planned to use to explore the new islands of the Fjords.
Adding up to that paddle steamer, the three orders brought to Border Town an income of almost 7,000 gold royals. Excluding the purchasing fees for metal ingot, the washing stone and other food supplies, the remaining 6,000 gold royals were enough to sustain his project to expand the population.
Roland called Barov and Iron Axe into his office.
"Now that we have extra funds, it's time to recruit more foreign citizens." He looked at the two capable men. "This operation will be handled together by the City Hall and the First Army. You'll decide which men to use, and I'll only provide you with the details of the task."
"Please go ahead." The Prime Minister nodded.
"The recruitment will be done both in the north and the Southern Territory." Roland spread a map in front of them. "Especially from Eagle City to Port of Clearwater… I suspect that Timothy already regards those people as part of Garcia's force, and they can be used and be disposed of any time. That's why you need to hurry and bring them in first."
"The team sent out by the City Hall will be responsible for the recruitment of nobles, smiths, and other literate people. The First Army's main task is to recruit civilians. Unlike the previous rumor spreading, this time the approach should be more active. Do you understand what I mean?"
Iron Axe hesitated for a while. "You mean… by force?"
"Um, no need for that." Roland coughed twice. The way of people of Sand Nation was obviously simple and rough. "For example through food distribution, actively encouraging them, advance payment for their living expenses, etc." He glanced at Barov. "You should be pretty familiar with this method."
"Of course, Your Royal Highness, during my time in the king's city I often assisted the ministers and the patrol teams to control and suppress riots," he said stroking his beard, "their requests were quite simple, sometimes it was just to fill their belly, so there was no need to use any money, or to mention salaries—if the benefits were too generous, they would actually become suspicious. Even though the fallen nobles are troublesome, and they're currently hard-pressed for money and no longer showing off but still they're quite knowledgeable, so their requests will likely be more demanding. They won't follow us miles away for just a piece of bread. That's when money and promises will come to use in order to attract them."
Roland clapped satisfied. "It's a pity that you have so many affairs here in Border Town so you can't go personally, or else this mission would definitely be a success."
"Rest assured, Your Highness, I'll send out my most capable students," Barov said with a smile, "by next year's wall construction, the two sides of Redwater River will be swarming with residents."
"That day will definitely come."
After the two of them left, Roland rested on his chair for a while and then decided to go to the North Slope courtyard to see Anna.
As he entered, the first thing he saw was a pile of metal cubes.
Roland picked up one in his palm—their size was mostly identical, around five centimeters long and wide. The surface was not smooth as if they had been suppressed, and there was a number engraved on one side. For example, the one in his hand had the number "256".
"How is it going. Have you discovered anything nice?"
"Number 1057 and number 2284, one is extremely hard and the other is perfect both in terms of hardness and tenacity," Anna replied with a smile on her face as she came closer.
"You already reached number 2,000?" Roland asked in surprise. He took the record handed over by Lucia, which was completely filled with data. He found number 2284, and read the notes next to it, "carbon accounts for 0.8% and unknown element number four 15.2%".
"Yeah, this is much more interesting than cutting gun barrels." Anna winked. "I never expected that mixing iron with other metals could cause so drastic changes in its characteristics. I'm really curious how the little balls of metals are able to be combined together."
The research that Anna and Lucia were conducting had a great future significance.
Roland first asked the little girl to break down the ore into its raw materials and then Anna would smelt them according to their quality with pure iron. Afterward, they would test the characteristics of these pieces—through the suppression and pull of Blackfire, Anna could discern how much magic power was needed every time, thus being able to determine their toughness and tenacity.
The first material to mix was obviously carbon.
Roland knew that steel was essentially a type of iron and carbon alloy: with too much carbon it would become pig iron, and with no carbon at all it would be pure iron. Only if it contained a certain percentage of carbon it could be described as steel and any fluctuation would cause significant changes to the metal's properties. So, the first thing they had to test was this range of fluctuation.
According to the record, before number 1500 the pieces were all done by smelting iron and carbon, but after number 1500 new elements were added in addition to the steel. Roland understood that with each additional element in the sequence, the results could multiply many times over, making the process extremely time-consuming. This was why he let Anna conduct her research only when she was not busy with her other manufacturing work.
He encouraged the two witches and sat on one side, admiring the rear view of the busy Anna in silence.
The autumn sunlight was still very bright, but it was not as vivid as that during summer. He felt a feeling of warmth, along with a long-absent feeling of safety and stability.
As the time passed, the yard gradually quieted down. Suddenly, he felt a soft hand on his forehead. Struggling to open his eyes, he saw that Lucia had already left and that Anna was sitting in front of him. "You want to talk to me?"
"I can see it in your eyes." She leaned over, her hair falling down naturally like half transparent golden silk threads.
Roland hesitated but finally shook his head. "I'm just a little confused." He briefly described his population expansion plan to her. "Compared with my original free will choice, now in order to save time, a combination of half luring and half forcing come to me. Even though doing this will help them avoid Timothy's extortion to take the pills and gradually die, after carefully thinking about it, I'm not really so different from him... the only difference is in our purpose."
"Isn't the purpose the most important thing?" she said softly.
"I know what you're trying to say." Anna covered the prince's mouth. "You're worried they won't appreciate your efforts and at the same time, you have doubts whether you can always guarantee that this purpose is correct in the future—being misunderstood for using the wrong method to achieve the right purpose, or using the right method but ending up making an irrevocable mistake… You don't know whether using the correct method or achieving the right purpose is more important. Am I right?"
"Don't worry." Without waiting for his reply, Anna came closer, put her hands on his cheeks and whispered softly in his ears, "You have me... I'll look after you."